I’ll always remember the day that the Challenger exploded as it sped to space, and as President Regan famously said, “Slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.” My personal beliefs aside that is one of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever heard. I’ll always remember when I first heard about the Oklahoma City bombing, the first attack on the World Trade Center, Columbine and of course, 9/11. The images of Katrina and the tsunami that tore apart Southeast Asia are burned into my head right next to the images from Haiti. Sadly, like pretty much everyone else, there are new images in that mental photo album; those of the complete destruction that took place in Japan this past weekend.
For the Challenger, I remember I was sitting in Mr. Durgy’s class, it was third grade. The Principal came by, had Mr. Durgy step outside for a moment, and then a few moments later made an announcement over the intercom. I remember coming home from school in’93, and seeing the images of smoke coming from the bottom of The World Trade Center. I heard about Oklahoma City when I went into work at Original Pizza. My parents were in Oklahoma City, they were there for a while training to open their own franchise in Kansas City. I didn’t believe it when I was told; no way there’d be a bombing in Oklahoma City. They’re just messing with me because my parents are there. That’s what I thought then, that’s what I wish was the case now.
Columbine hit me hard, as that school looked so much like the high school I attended and I was just four years removed from school. I was glued to the television. That led to my first blog post, before they called it blogging. AOL has since taken down that website, jerks. 9/11 took place as some friends had traveled home to New York for the wedding of his sister, my first babysitter. I was at work when someone came in and told me, I didn’t believe that either. Flipped on the radio and listened in horror, then quickly called my friend and got through. Everyone I knew was okay. The groom to be was actually in one of the towers. To this day, if I see a show about 9/11, I have to watch it. No matter how many times I’ve seen that very show.
Last Friday I came in to work, just happy it was Friday. Then I saw a post on Facebook about an earthquake that hit Japan. It took a moment, and then I realized that earlier in the week my uncle and I had swapped some emails. He casually mentioned, “I’m emailing you from Japan.” At the time I thought that was cool, he traveled there often for business, and still consults even though he retired ten years ago. He doesn’t understand what retire really means.
I panicked, I wasn’t sure when he was coming home, but my gut told me he was there. I tried his cell, no answer. I didn’t want to call my aunt, if she hadn’t heard, I really didn’t want to be the one breaking this news to her. So I called my cousin, even though it was just 6:30 where he was. I hoped I wouldn’t wake him, but that wasn’t my biggest concern. I informed him of the earthquake and tsunami and he didn’t realize his father was in Tokyo. I heard the panic in his voice as he checked with his wife. He called hid mother, who had already spoken with my uncle. He was at the airport when it happened, and he was okay. Between hearing of the earthquake and that he was okay, I had sent Mrs. Hirp a text, informing her of what happened and that my uncle was there. When she told the Kyd, she started to cry, “I don’t want Uncle Jerry to die!”
“Neither do I,” I said to myself, “neither do I.” She was on her way to the bus stop when Mrs. Hirp called out to her and let her know he was ok. She responded with a “Yes!” and a fist pump. Perfect response every time.
I also informed my father that his brother was in Japan, but when I followed that up with letting him know his brother was okay, there was a mix up and he took that to mean he was out of harms way when the earth moved. It wasn’t till later that he realized his older brother was in the scariest place on earth. But the whole thing had just started. This was hours before anyone even mentioned “nuclear” anything. Knowing he was okay was a huge relief, obviously, but I’m a worrier by nature. Until I knew he was in the states, my imagination was going to fuck with me like reality messes with Charlie Sheen. I watched video after video Friday, my heart firmly planted in my throat.
Early Saturday afternoon I received a call from my aunt, that he had boarded a flight a few hours earlier and should be landing in Los Angeles in a little bit. That sound, that was the sound of a giant sigh of relief. Later on he called me and told me about his ordeal. The lack of food, the fear, the cold, the shaking, glass shattering, sleeping on the floor head to foot with strangers in a foreign land and the exhaustion.
He’s home, he’s safe and I’m glad. But so many others aren’t. The first estimate I heard was of 1,000 deaths. There’s simply no way that could be true, I watched cars trying to speed away from the rushing water. Some made it, some didn’t. I firmly believe there will be over 25,000 lives lost. With hundreds of thousand more completely ruined. I find myself stuck obessing over the cleanup process, as if that could even take place. What do you do with all that mud? How do you get clothes? When do you go back to work, when your work was swept out to sea? Will the kids ever get back to school? What about the pets, how many were lost? And how do you tell your child everything will be alright, when things are so far from ever being alright again?
I hate the news. I hate how it sucks me in, and hate how it makes me feel. I fear the next disaster, and they seem to happen more often now. Tell me everything will be alright